His confidence matches his capabilities
One thing One Piece revels in is revealing the cracks in the armor of seemingly unflappable villains. In my article "Why Defeat Is So Devastating In One Piece," I wrote about the fact that One Piece's creator Eiichiro Oda prefers to not have his villains killed because the destruction of their dreams and ideology is just as serious as death in that universe. So the moment defeat becomes a possibility is the instant we see Luffy's unbreakable spirit is more than a match for an antagonist's previously impenetrable might. There's perhaps no better example of this than with Sir Crocodile and his growing frustration over the fact that Luffy doesn't have any quit in him.
A lot of this has to do with the fact that, for the most part, Sir Crocodile, the leader of the mysterious Baroque Works organization and wannabe ruler of the desert kingdom of Alabasta, is so dang cool beforehand. He's cool in a way we haven't really seen before. It's still relatively early in One Piece's story when we meet him, but Crocodile is a new breed of criminal. Previously, when other villains fall victim to their own insecurities and annoyances, they do it way sooner.
Buggy can barely hide his own vanity. Kuro's dissatisfaction with being in the presence of pirates (and his own men) is exposed about midway through the arc. Don Krieg's plan probably would've gone off way better if he'd been able to just keep a handle on his pride instead of relishing what he thought would be an imminent victory as soon as it was within sight. Arlong could never shed his ambition and the cruelty that went hand-in-hand with it. Wapol's appetite for power outweighed his own brawn. And so on.
In short, Sir Crocodile, even though he's eventually defeated by Luffy in the last of three grueling fights, is the only villain whose confidence matches his capability. As such, his cocky attitude feels earned and is way easier to enjoy. Many One Piece fans still cite Crocodile as their favorite villain, and I think that has a lot to do with this competent balance. Crocodile can lead an organization, maintain a facade that causes him to be praised by many, slip under the radar of the World Government trying to keep tabs on the Seven Warlords, and when push comes to shove, he can go all 12 rounds.
The way Crocodile treats his subordinates, ordering them around and then dispensing with them when they've outlived their usefulness to him, is painfully direct. The finishes to the first two fights with Luffy are equally dominant, concluding with Crocodile holding Luffy's limp form as if to provide an example to anyone else that considers crossing him. The juxtaposition of all of this with the final moments of the third battle in which Crocodile, enraged by the fact that he can't seem to put Luffy down and willing to bring down the entire underground temple around them, makes for a great contrast. In fact, it's one of only two times that we ever see Crocodile really shaken.
The other time is in Impel Down when Crocodile, now paired with Luffy, Buggy, and many other escapees, is reminded by Ivankov about a certain "secret" he holds. This unnerves Crocodile, who, until this point, is the most chill of the group busting out of the prison. Crocodile is not inhumanly or even cartoonishly calm. He just has certain breaking points, certain personal lines that he keeps to himself. This renders him with a kind of inherent mystery, something the aforementioned secret only adds to. We're attracted to Crocodile because we want to know more about him and because his character is constructed with his hand kept so close to his chest, we're not sure how much we will.
At this point in the story, we know Sir Crocodile is in the New World, but we're not sure exactly what he's doing. His relatively close proximity to Luffy and the current action makes him endlessly curious even in the current arc. Just like with whatever is going on under Crocodile's relaxed demeanor, we don't know when he'll pop up again or in what capacity. The crocodile lurks under the surface of the water, and when it emerges, the results are often nothing less than stunning.
Daniel Dockery is a Senior Staff Writer for Crunchyroll. Follow him on Twitter!
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